Botswana vacations with teenagers

Botswana is one of Africa’s premier safari destinations, with a reputation for excellent wildlife viewing and high-end accommodation, but it’s also an excellent and exciting destination for a families with teens.
Far from being the preserve of safari addicts with deep pockets, specialist small group family vacations in Botswana are specifically designed to suit both teenagers, and the adults in their lives. They know how to keep everyone happy, and are designed with the right mix of activity, participation and time to chill.

Small group vacations

Most teen-friendly vacations to Botswana involve traveling overland and camping, which helps to keep costs down, while the participatory nature of this kind of trip works well with young people. Putting up tents, helping to prep meals and eating together around the campfire provides a nice level of activity, sociability and focus to each day, and gives young people the chance to mix with travelers from around the world and, of course, the other young people on their trip. The company of the local guides that steer this kind of small group trip, too, is another treat. Unflappable and enthusiastic tour leaders and super knowledgeable wildlife guides who know how to communicate with young people often turn out to be the highlight of the vacation.

There are typically a few nights of wild camping in the bush included on a Botswana vacation with teenagers, which puts you right at the heart of the action: no fences, no firearms, just you, the huge night skies and the animals, roaring and splashing and strolling past the tents. Digging a bush toilet, doing without a shower and spending the night with hippos and lions for neighbours is an authentic thrill that teenagers appreciate.
Of course, the game viewing is spectacular in Botswana, and any teen ambivalence is usually dropped quicker than a burning iPhone when an elephant strolls into camp or a lion eyeballs you a few metres from the open sided truck you’re sitting in. The huge herds of elephants in Chobe National Park are utterly awesome, often 80 animals strong, while the chance to get close to giraffe and hippo during a walk in the Okavango Delta raises hairs on the back of the neck of young and old alike. Sharing all this wildlife wonderfulness as a family is really special, building memories that you can dip back into year after year.
In addition to unforgettable wildlife spectacles, there are lots of other activities to keep teens engaged in Botswana. In the Okavango Delta, take a mokoro canoe ride, go for a wild swim and join a sunrise walking safari. Visit a rural village here and meet the local people, to understand a little more about life in the awesome sprawling waterways of the Delta. Take a bush walk in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans before relaxing by a waterhole where elephants drink, just metres away, and venture just over the border into Zimbabwe to take in one of Africa’s landmark sights – Victoria Falls. Being drenched in the swirling mist produced by these thundering falls is a refreshing – and refreshingly fun – experience.

Our top Family with teenagers Vacation

Botswana family Safari with teenagers vacation

Botswana family Safari with teenagers vacation

See some of the world’s greatest waterfalls and wildlife

From US $1279 to US $1655 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 29 Jun, 7 Jul, 14 Jul, 10 Aug, 11 Aug, 28 Sep, 20 Oct, 28 Dec
2020: 29 Mar, 27 Jun, 4 Jul, 11 Jul, 17 Jul, 18 Jul, 25 Jul, 1 Aug, 2 Aug, 8 Aug, 9 Aug, 15 Aug, 16 Aug, 19 Sep, 3 Oct, 19 Dec, 28 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Family with teenagers or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Botswana highlights for teens

Chobe National Park

Chobe was the first national park created in Botswana and it’s most famous for its massive population of elephants, which you can see drinking and bathing in the late afternoon in the Chobe River. A boat cruise is a relaxed way to get close to them, and to see hippos, enormous crocs and big herds of buffalo. You might also spot cheetah and lion coming down to drink.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Once a hunting reserve and now a conservation project, Khama Rhino Sanctuary sits on the edge of the Kalahari and was built to protect Botswana's only remaining populations of both black and white rhinos. Other wildlife thrives here, too, including zebras, giraffes, leopards, ostriches and wildebeest, all of which can be seen around the waterholes. Camping overnight here means you will be in the park at dusk when the rhinos are most active and can take a game drive to see them. Trailing these huge animals as they browse the bush and the light fades is really special. You’ll also be supporting local communities and contributing to the protection of these endangered rhinoceros.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

These pans are among the largest salt flats on earth and a night camping here is a chance to experience this sparse wilderness up close. A bush walk will fill you in on the mini beasts and flora of this unusual landscape while at Elephant Sands, you can sit just metres from a waterhole where elephants come to drink in the evening. Magical.

Okavango Delta

The world’s only inland delta, the Okavango is a biodiverse dream, home to incredible wildlife. A local ‘poler’ will propel you through the papyrus fringed waterways on a traditional mokoro canoe, and you can wild camp on one of the remote islands that dot this watery landscape. It’s a must-visit of any Botswana trip, but teenagers will love the chance to pitch tent in the wild, try their hand at poling a mokoro and hike through the wilderness, for encounters with hippo and elephants.

Victoria Falls

Not far from Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls spans the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. They are a truly awesome experience: amazing to stare at, incredibly loud and incredibly wet, too. After a drenching from the mist, teens will love the chance to barter their sunglasses for souvenirs at the stalls around the entrance.

Practicalities

Since the question of whether there will be WiFi is bound to come up pretty soon after you mention a trip to Botswana to teens, let’s deal with it first. On an overland camping vacation, there is usually WiFi at campsites, although you may have to go to the bar or reception to get it. You’re less likely to pick up a signal while out on the road – the Kalahari is not a famous 4G hotspot – and obviously wild camping in the bush, with no facilities, means a total detox. Most teens find they enjoy the enforced break from screen, and generally, sleeping in the Delta within roaring distance of lions is distraction enough.

Trips for families with teens to Botswana tend to be overland tours, often starting at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and finishing in Johannesburg in South Africa. Traveling overland is considerably less expensive than using internal flights, but you should expect some long days on the road. Botswana is big, and driving between its key sights takes time, especially since roads are often rough and bumpy, enforcing a go-slow. From Chobe National Park to Nata on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans takes six to seven hours, while from Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta, to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary near the border with South Africa takes between eight and nine hours. A phone loaded with music and a few games usually helps the hours to pass smoothly, and most teens shift gear – just as adults do – once in Botswana and are content to gaze out over the Kalahari in a pleasingly relaxed state. You’ll be traveling in a purpose-built overland truck that has big sliding windows, for game viewing and great visibility, but as a result there’s no air con so it can get hot and dusty.
There’s usually a minimum age of 10 on a families with teens trip to Botswana, due to government safety restrictions in the Okavango Delta, and these trips are only for families. Family means any aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins who want to come along; as long as an adult is traveling with a child under 18, that’s a family. A discount usually applies for children under the age of 17. Other trips, while not specifically marketed as teen trips, will often take children over 12, but you can’t guarantee that there will be other young people on the trip.
Be aware that you’ll need to provide a certified copy of the child’s full unabridged birth certificate in order to enter Botswana (and South Africa) if you’re traveling with a person under the age of 18. Further rules apply if the children are traveling with just one parent, or with neither parent, so look into this and be prepared. In the UK, check the governments foreign travel advice site.
Specialist teen-friendly trips to Botswana coincide with the Christmas, Easter, summer and October half term school vacations, as well as running in June and July. As you’ll need 10 days at least to cover the ground and make the most of your time once here, some departure dates may run over into term time – although this is less of an issue if traveling with older teens who may have a flexible college or work schedule.
Most meals will be included on an overland trip through Botswana, and helping to cook or wash dishes is very much part of this kind of participatory trip. For some parents, seeing their teens happily wielding a tea towel in the African bush is a joyful sight, right up there with spotting their first lion! Portions are hearty and the food is wholesome, so hollow-legged teens won’t go hungry. Camp breakfasts include cereal, toast, eggs and pancakes, while dinners are typically barbecues, rice or pasta dishes. You’ll have the chance to try some Botswana specialties, too, such as ugali (cornmeal porridge) and stew. There’s usually the chance to buy snacks at supermarkets along the way.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Greg Raines] [Jeep and elephants: Intrepid] [Family photo: Intrepid] [Lion: Brian Gratwicke] [Mokoro: iStock] [Boys: Joanna Simmons - Responsible Travel]
Convert currencies